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Can I help my special needs son find his passion and wean him of TV?

I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself. I know the people closest to me will tell me I’m too hard on myself but that’s not the case. This is about Spencer, my special needs’ son who I blog about often (although haven’t recently.) It depresses me beyond belief that he doesn’t seem to have a passion or even a hobby. He’s lost in a world of TV. I feel like he’s the kid from Willy Wonka who only watches TV. Some “experts” think he’s hearing voices because he’s frequently talking to himself. I know this isn’t true. As I constantly tell my readers, a mom knows her kids better than anyone else. He’s not hearing voices, he’s repeating lines he’s heard from his favorite TV shows and movies..Bonanza, Pirates of the Caribean, Star Wars.

I’ve tried to expose him to a variety of activities from karate to soccer to hip hop. He starts out interested but quickly becomes bored. I can’t even get him into video games because he doesn’t feel he’s good enough. All of the things “regular” boys should enjoy. The only thing he seems to enjoy is TV. So the debate constantly plays in my head – does he not have any interests because he watches too much TV or does he revert to TV because he hasn’t found anything else?

It seems the greatest conflicts arise around TV, whether it’s getting into a fight with his sisters over the remote, his defiance of doing his homework because he’s watching his favorite show or his obsession with a particular character. This afternoon capped off a week of me telling him that TV needed to be dialed back. I was trying to have a conference call with a client and I heard Spencer getting into an argument with his babysitter Josh. I tried my best to ignore it and let Josh deal with it but Spencer ended up coming running into my home office and having a massive temper tantrum on the floor. The cause? Josh was following my instructions and prohibiting TV. He had options – Wii, playing outside or reading. Spencer refused all and was extremely disrespectful. So, Josh disconnected the TV and took it down to the basement. I respect Josh for it and support him but now what? Part of me feels like this is the only thing that my son enjoys and I feel bad about depriving him of it. The other part of me says that if he’s ever going to find something else I need to help him.

So… the great experiment begins. Can I explore various activities this weekend until I can find something that sparks my son’s interest? I know he enjoys cooking and he can do several things by himself but when he asks me whether he can help me make dinner I at first say no. It’s already 6P and the girls are getting hungry and, after all, I can do it much faster by myself. But, I stopped. This is an opportunity. So, I take a few deep breaths, pour myself a glass of wine and tell him yes, he can help me. Here he is making chicken cutlets. If this is what gets him excited I can use this for a variety of things – math for measuring, research skills for looking up recipes and science for learning about heat, freezing and evaporation.

So, stay tuned… not sure what this weekend will bring but it’s a TV diet for both of us!

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